It was considered a "do-or-die" game for the U.S. national team, and the Americans walked away from their matchup against Panama alive and well.
Christian Pulisic kicked off the night with an incredible goal and Jozy Altidore added two to guide the U.S. to a 4-0 win over Panama to keep their World Cup dreams alive, with only one more match remaining in the fifth round of qualifying. The victory puts the U.S. two points ahead of Los Canaleros in third place of the Hex with the qualifying finale set for Tuesday in Trinidad & Tobago.
The top three finishers in the final round of qualifying earn a spot in the 2018 World Cup, while the fourth-place team will meet the winner of a playoff between Australia and Syria.
A loss Friday would have been devastating for the U.S., which entered the match in Orlando sitting in fourth in the standings. If the Americans would have lost or drawn, they would have likely needed a result against Trinidad & Tobago along with some help to secure a playoff spot.
THE TABLE AS IT STANDS
|2||Costa Rica (P)||8||4||3||1||+7||15|
|6||Trinidad & Tobago (E)||9||1||0||8||-13||3|
But now, a victory over Trinidad & Tobago will assure the Americans a spot in Russia. A draw would also get the U.S. in unless Honduras, which sits fifth, pulls off major upsets against Costa Rica and Mexico in its final two matches.
If Panama defeats Costa Rica in their finale and the U.S. draws on Tuesday, they will be tied for third with 13 points apiece, in which case goal differential would come into play and would likely go in favor of the United States.